green car sales

Alt-fuel vehicle sales across all automakers in June more than doubled from a year earlier.

The Prius may be better associated with soft-pedaling drivers, but June showed us that the world's best-selling hybrid is figuratively smoking its tires when it comes to getting some distance from a brutal 2011, lifting all U.S. alt-fuel sales figures as a result.

Overall U.S. alt-fuel vehicle sales across all automakers in June more than doubled from a year earlier to more than 42,000 vehicles, as Americans continued to shop for fuel-sipping vehicles despite the fact that U.S. gas prices, which peaked this year at about $3.90 in early April, have been steadily dropping during the last three months to about $3.30 a gallon, according to AAA. With overall June auto sales estimated to have risen about 18 percent from year-earlier levels, advanced-powertrain vehicles appear to be accounting for a progressively larger percentage of cars sold.

And while some of this jump can be attributed to sales increases in General Motors' Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug in and the company's mild-hybrid sedans as well as a monthly-record number of Ford Focus Electrics sold, most of the increase can be attributed to Toyota, which was besieged last year by supply constraints stemming from the earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck Japan last March. The Japanese automaker more than quadrupled its Prius sales from a year earlier to 19,150 units in June, with the newer Prius C, Prius V and Prius Plug-in variants collectively accounting for about 40 percent of the Prius hybrids sold. Non-Prius Toyota sales jumped more than sevenfold to 3,955, likely on the continuing popularity of the revamped Camry Hybrid. Overall, Toyota and its Lexus division boosted hybrid sales to 25,776 vehicles from 5,705 in June 2011.

Chevrolet more than tripled its Volt sales from a year earlier.

As for GM, the U.S. automaker more than tripled its Volt sales from a year earlier to 1,760 units, marking June the second-best month ever for the model. Through the first six months of the year, the Volt sold 8,817 units, compared to 7,671 vehicles sold for all of last year. Overall, GM, which also sold 3,461 of its mild-hybrid Chevrolet Malibu, Buick LaCrosse and Buick Regal models, boosted alt-fuel vehicle sales from June 2011 by a factor of six to 5,383 units.

Additionally, German automakers Volkswagen and Audi increased their clean-diesel vehicle sales. VW diesel sales last month increased 22 percent from a year earlier to 7,329 units, while Audi diesel sales rose 36 percent from a year earlier to 657 vehicles.

Ford, which introduced its electric-powered version of the Focus in very limited numbers late last year, sold 89 units in June after moving just eight during the previous six months combined.

Such gains far more than offset the challenges Nissan faces to meet last year's pace for sales of its all-electric Leaf as well as continued hybrid-sales declines for Ford and Honda. The Leaf, which outsold the Volt by about 2,000 units list year, saw a 69-percent year-over-year sales drop to just 535 units. As a result, the model fell behind last year's sales pace for the first time in 2012, with the Leaf's six-months total of 3,148 units accounting for a 19-percent decline from a year earlier.

For the first half of the year, U.S. alt-fuel sales jumped 54 percent to more than 264,000 vehicles.

Meanwhile, Ford's hybrid sales dropped 41 percent from a year earlier to 1,354 vehicles as Ford Escape Hybrid sales dwindled to just 17 units and Fusion Hybrid sales fell 18 percent to 797 vehicles. Lincoln MKZ Hybrid sales fell 6.6 percent to 451 vehicles.

As for Honda, the lack of popularity for its CR-Z pulled its numbers down, as the compact sports hybrid's sales plunged 58 percent to 409 units. Honda Insight sales fell 52 percent to 494 vehicles, more than offsetting the Honda Civic Hybrid's 31-percent year-over-year sales increase to 548 vehicles. Overall, Honda hybrid sales fell 40 percent to 1,451 vehicles.

Finally, Mitsubishi, which came off monthly-record May of 85 units sold for its all-electric i, saw sales of the model fall to 33 units last month. And Porsche hybrid sales dropped 62 percent from June 2011.

For the first half of the year, U.S. alt-fuel sales jumped 54 percent to more than 264,000 vehicles. Toyota nearly doubled sales of its Toyota and Lexus hybrids to almost 170,000 vehicles, while GM's alt-fuel vehicle sales jumped fivefold to 24,594 units and Volkswagen diesel sales rose 33 percent to almost 43,000 vehicles.

Ford hybrid sales have dropped this year by 44 percent to 8,875 units, while Honda hybrid sales through June declined 51 percent from a year earlier to 10,565 vehicles.